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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MOUSE, n. Also moose, moos(s) (Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 333; Sh. 1898 Shetland News (22 Oct.)); mouss; mus (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)), and dims. mousie (Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Mouse vii., e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rural Rhymes 171), mousey (Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 148), moosie (ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 125). [mus]

 Sc. forms of Eng. mouse.m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 44:
I canna mind him bein owre fasht
for onie moose he howked oot wi the cooter
but aften wunner if he ever wearit
for aw the yokit mice he left ahin.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 59:
Ayont the toon, in the bare cauld field,
a ribbit birrs up its lugs.
The moose scutters reechlin frae leafy bield.
Sc. 1995 David Purves Hert's Bluid 30:
"The neist tyme Tibbie dovers af,
aw that wou need ti dae, A'm shuir, is for
sum galluss mouss ti tipper up
til hir an hing a bell about hir craig; ... "

Sc. usages:

1. Combs.: (1) mouse-catcher, a small variety of weasel. Cf. (13) and quot. s.v.; (2) mouse-cheep, the squeak of a mouse. Gen.Sc.; fig., a feeble word of protest; (3) mouse dirt, mice-, as in Eng., the droppings of mice, in proverbial expression, see quot.; (4) mouse-fa', a mouse-trap (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) M. 66; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928); ‡Sh., Fif. 1963). Obs. in Eng. See Fa, n.; (5) mouse grass, the silvery hair-grass, Aira caryophyllea (Mry.1 1925; Sh. 1963). Also in Eng. dial.; (6) mouse-lug, mouse-ear chickweed, Cerastium viscosum (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) M. 66), also mouse-luggit weed (Id.); (7) mouse-mark, a birth-mark resembling a mouse in shape; (8) mouse mouldin, mousie-, a narrow bead or moulding which fills in the angle between floor and skirting board or wall, so called because it fills the space where mice may emerge. Gen.Sc.; (9) mouse pea, mousie's —, mice —, -peas(e), applied to various members of the genera, Vicia or Lathyrus (I.Sc., Cai., Ayr., Kcb. 1963), esp. the common vetch, Vicia sativa (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) M. 67), the tufted vetch, Vicia cracca (Mry. 1835 J. Burgess Flora Mry. 9; Rs., Crm. 1963); the meadow vetchling, Lathyrus pratensis (Cai.7 1940); or the tuberous bitter vetch, Orobus tuberosus (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 57). Obs. in Eng. exc. dial.; (10) moose's grip, the method of joining hands with another person by linking the curled fingers only (Abd.31 c.1940–63); (11) mousewab, moos(e)-, -wob, -wub, -wib, a spider's web, a cobweb (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 258). Gen.Sc.; gossamer (Sc. 1808 Jam.); also fig. as of a dry, husky feeling in the throat or stomach. Hence mouse-webbed, full of cobwebs; (12) mouse-warp, = (11) (Fif. 1963); (13) mouse weasel, a small female weasel (see quot.) (Abd., Kcb. 1963). Cf. (1); (14) mousie hawk, the kestrel, Falco tinnunculus (Ork. 1891 Harvie-Brown & Buckley Fauna Ork. 156, Ork. 1958); (15) moosey-whiy-beard [ < white-beard], the whitethroat, Sylvia communis, so called from the white feathers which stick out from the throat (Fif. 1963 Dundee Courier (21 Aug.) 3).(1) Dmf. 1958 Dmf. & Gall. Standard (17 May):
He believes that there are two distinct species of weasel — one of which is extremely small and which he calls the “mouse-catcher.”
(2) Rxb. 1881 J. Younger Autobiog. 171:
To smite or terrify every poor, hungry tradesman neighbour who should give so much as a mouse-cheep about equitable rights.
(3) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 153:
Had I as mickle black Spice, as he thinks himself worth of Mice-dirt, I would be the richest Man of my Kin. Spoken satyrically of proud Beaus, whom we suspect to be highly conceited of their own Worth.
(4) Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 275:
For 2 mouss falls . . . 12s. 0d.
Sc. 1832 Tait's Mag. (Nov.) 206:
He kens mair than a do about pokers and tangs, an' nit-crackers, an' moose-fa's.
Ags. 1858 People's Journal (5 June) 2:
For Lordsake, woman! tell me whaur ye've set the mousefa'.
(7) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. iii. ii.:
I'll wager there's a Mouse Mark on your Side.
(9) Sc. 1744 J. Cockburn Letters (S.H.S.) 94:
Buy a boll of mouse Pease as called for the Pidgeons and feed them.
Sc. 1757 R. Maxwell Practical Husbandman 340:
Vetches, or mouse-pease are to be got, which are very hardy, in case the other sort of pease be thought too tender.
Bwk. 1809 R. Kerr Agric. Bwk. 265:
There was formerly grown in Scotland, a species of vetch tare or lentil, of considerable size, called provincially the mouse pea.
(10) Abd.31 c.1940:
Moose's Grip = Butcher's Grip, q.v. (the method of holding hands with another person using the curled fingers only).
(11) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 208:
Synd your mouse-wabbs wi' reaming stout, While ye ha'e cash.
Lth. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 3:
In a wee hut mouse-webb'd, an' far frae clean.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 197:
Blew down the mouse-webs black and mirk, That had, up on the tap o' th' kirk, Twa hunder year been stickin'.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 147:
Spiders were regarded with a feeling of kindliness . . . Their webs, very often called “moose wobs,” were a great specific to stop bleeding.
Fif. 1886 A. Stewart Reminiscences 48:
The application of “moose wabs” (cobwebs) for sores, and also pills of the same to be taken internally.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (29 Jan.):
A corn o' dis 'll tak da moose wibs aff your stammicks.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 323:
Jeruslam is a bony piece Nae mouch or mooswab thare.
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man 53:
And a' man's thocht nae mair to them Than ony moosewob to a man.
Bch. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 1:
Dichtin' moose-wobs aff the riggin'.
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 87:
Whin she cam ti' da arable an' gettin da moosewubs oot o' me oxters, I coodna help lauchin fur I wis aye kittly.
(13) n.Sc. 1958 Scotsman (17 Feb.) 3:
Both stoat and weasel show considerable sexual dimorphism in point of size, the males being noticeably bigger than the females. This is especially pronounced in the weasel, the difference being so great that the small females have often been thought to belong to a lesser species, called in Scotland the “mouse weasel”.
(14) Ork. 1904 Dennison Sketches 12:
There's a moosie hawk.

2. Phrs.: (1) the mouse in the meal girnel, a children's game (Ork. 1963); (2) to mak mice feet o', to mak like mice feet, to reduce to fragments, to destroy, to confound utterly (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 113; Sh., ne.Sc. 1963); (3) to mak mice meat o' = (2) (Bnff. 1963); (4) your min' chases mice, a rebuke to a scatterbrained person whose thoughts fly aimlessly from one subject to another (Abd.13 1933).(1) Ork. 1923 P. Ork. A.S. 68:
There was “Hipple Scotch,” “Ring-a-ring-a-rosie,” “The Mouse in the Meal Girnel,” and kindred games.
Ork. 1975:
"The mouse in the meal girnel" was played by the children joining hands to form a ring with the "mouse" inside and the "cat" outside, trying to force her way in. If this happened the "mouse" could be let out, the ring would close and the "cat" would then have to break out to pursue the mouse. The game ended when the "cat" finally caught the "mouse".
(2) Bnff. 1714 W. Cramond Ch. Grange (1898) 75:
One said he should make her like mice feet for all the bribes her witch mother had given to the bailzie.
(3) Abd. 1872 J. G. Michie Deeside Tales 89:
Gin the Prince o' Brunswick wi' sic an army as he had that day cu'd hae met him, he wid hae made mice-meat o' him and his cuirassiers baith.

3. The bulbous lump of flesh or muscular tissue at one end of a leg of mutton (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Cf. Fr. souris, id., and muscle < Lat. musculus, a little mouse. Combs. mouse-end; mouse-piece (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 171), id. Now only dial. in Eng.Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxii.:
I went to the aumrie and took out a mutton-bone, gey sair pyked, but fleshy enough at the mouse-end.

4. A small lead weight tied to a cord which guides it vertically downwards in places inaccessible to the fingers, used by joiners to guide the ropes in a sash window or by electricians to drop wires behind plaster, etc. Gen.Sc. So called because of the scraping noise it makes which helps to locate it, its usual position and its appearance.

[O.Sc. moussfall, 1694, mouswalbis, 1556.]

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"Mouse n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jun 2023 <>



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